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Jesus is our childhood’s pattern;
day by day like us he grew;
he was little, weak, and helpless;
tears and smiles like us he knew;
and he feels for all our sadness,
and he shares in all our gladness.

 — Cecil Frances Alexander


“Once In Royal David’s City,” arranged by Kurt Kaiser, performed by 18 yr-old Andrew, horn and Maureen, piano, during communion at the 2008 Christmas Eve Service at St. John’s Baptist Church, Charlotte. Maureen adapted the music for horn.


Tears and smiles (Grief in the holidays)


WHEN JESUS WAS BORN, God demonstrated not only the desire and capacity to share in our tears and smiles, our griefs and joys, but also gifted us with the miraculous capacity to do the same for one another.

Grief is often hardest at the holidays. Merrymaking feels hollow. Cherished traditions, rituals and memories only serve to bring to mind those whom we miss. Especially for those in whom grief is fresh, who are approaching their first holiday season without the one they’ve lost.

I learned this firsthand after Andrew’s passing, and revisited it in subsequent holidays when grief resurfaced for me with surprising potency while it had faded for others outside of the immediate circle of family-ness. A certain hollowness was present. But my experience eventually confirmed what others assured me of: grief does get easier.

While the sense of loss will never go away (nor do you want it to), it will eventually move from being your forefront pre-occupation to being in the background, allowing you to experience again a natural sense of happiness.

Over time, you might find that the hollowness grief left you with can become a reservoir of compassion for others.


The hymn


Once in royal David’s City
Stood a lowly cattle-shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby,
In a manger for his bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And his shelter was a stable,
And his cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior Holy.

For he is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day like us he grew;
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us he knew;
And he feels for all our sadness,
And he share in all our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see him,
Through his own redeeming love,
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above;
And he leads his children on
To the place where he is gone.

words: Cecil Frances Alexander, 1848
music: Henry J. Gauntlett, 1849